The Estonian driver comes into Wales Rally GB with three consecutive WRC event wins and is in prime position to maintain that run with a 28.8s lead on championship leader Thierry Neuville at the end of SS9.
While Tanak won the first two stages of the afternoon loop, Evans stopped midway through SS7 with a suspected engine issue which forced him out of the running from second place. Coupled with a timely charge and Evans’ exit, Neuville has moved up to second place for Hyundai and victory on SS9 saw him trim Tanak’s lead to 28.8s.
Fellow Toyota driver Jari-Matti Latvala holds third place just 2.5s off Neuville with teammate Esapekka Lappi recovering from an early spin to move up to fourth and just 4.6s off Latvala at the end of Friday’s running, with all three Toyotas inside the top four.
Sebastien Ogier also attempted a Friday afternoon push to see him move up to fifth on the overall classification for M-Sport Ford, just 2.3s off Lappi, with Citroen’s Craig Breen slotting into sixth place over 10 seconds off the defending WRC champion.
Hayden Paddon produced a solid final stage on Friday to jump to seventh place for Hyundai, coupled with M-Sport Ford losing Teemu Suninen who went off the road on SS9, which saw Mads Ostberg retain eighth place for Citroen.
Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkeslen has moved up to ninth place by virtue of Suninen’s drop down the order with WRC2 class leader Kalle Rovanpera rounding out the top ten for Skoda, with almost a full minute lead on Pontus Tidemand.
Top 15 classification after SS9 from Wales Rally GB, the eleventh round of the 2018 World Rally Championship.
1. Ott Tanak EST Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing 1hr 06m 04.3s
2. Thierry Neuville BEL Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +28.8s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala FIN Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing +31.3s
4. Esapekka Lappi FIN Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing +35.9s
5. Sebastien Ogier FRA M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC 17 +38.2s
6. Craig Breen IRE Citroen C3 Abu Dhabi WRC +48.8s
7. Hayden Paddon ESP Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1m 06.4s
8. Mads Ostberg NOR Citroen C3 WRC +1m 08.4s
9. Andreas Mikkelsen NOR Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1m 24.3s
10. Kalle Rovanpera FIN Skoda Fabia R5 +3m 08.4s
11. Pontus Tidemand SWE Skoda Fabia R5 +4m 07.0s
12. Gus Greensmith GBR Ford Fiesta R5 +4m 14.7s
13. Tom Cave GBR Hyundai i20 R5 +4m 32.8s
14. David Bogie GBR Skoda Fabia R5 +4m 52.8s
15. Stephane Lefebvre FRA Citroen Total Rallye Team C3 R5 +5m 03.5s
Elfyn Evans GBR M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC 17 SS7 Mechanical